17 May 2009


Two times every year the Academy grounds get a complete face lift. This happens right before Parent's Weekend and graduation. Colorado is a horrible climate for growing anything but rocks, but USAFA will not accept this. They use vast amounts of water, energy, and money trying to defy Mother Nature. The liberal dosage of sod is the best example of this phenomenon. They bring in hundreds of pallets of sod in order to make it look like grass can actually grow at USAFA. To a logical person, using taxpayer money to re-plant the Academy twice a year does not make very much sense. At some point you would cut your losses and deal with rocks, AstroTurf, or dirt.

This is the perfect example of how the Academy tends to focus on pleasing visitors rather than pleasing cadets. The upper leadership really doesn't care how cadets view the institution or function in it, but they do care how visitors look at it. You would also imagine that the greatness of the institution would speak for itself; and no one really cares if the grassy area right outside the east part of Sijan Hall has fresh sod. For the visitors out there, we hope that your judgement only goes surface deep and you can be easily pleased with grass. Just make sure to only visit around Parent's Weekend or graduation, though.

07 May 2009

Upper Leadership Will Not Fill The Fountains Because Of Safety Reasons

There is a tradition here at the Academy that Firsties have done for generations. There are two glorious fountains on the Terrazzo that get filled up when the weather gets nice. Since the weather shifts between winter and summer daily, they make this date toward the end of spring semester. Every year these two fountains get filled so Firsties can continue their annual tradition. After your last class/final you jump into the fountains in full uniform and celebrate the end of school. Some prefer to belly flop and some prefer the cannonball, and some even bring an inflatable alligator with them.

I've been joking around for the last few weeks with some of my classmates by spreading the dirty rumor that the upper leadership has decided this tradition is dangerous and disrespectful, and therefore the fountains will not get filled up this year. I thought about making this post as a joke, sort of "The Onion" (recently unblocked) style making fun of something that is completely untrue. As of early Thursday morning, it looks like this false prophecy will actually be reality. There is a small chance that it could get filled up in the next 12 hours for Firsties who don't have any finals, but I highly doubt it.

Alas, classmates, another time-honored tradition has come to a close. On the bright side, though, there is a small puddle from the rain last weekend you can roll around in if you so desire . . .

03 May 2009

Uniform as a Punishment

I've heard that often times Academy graduates are the sloppiest looking LTs on the block. They never iron their uniforms, shine their shoes, or shave. In my mind this argument has some credibility because the institution uses uniforms as a punishment. They make a feeble attempt to instill pride in the uniform by forcing us to memorize quotes, not put uniforms on the ground, and perform regular inspections. Unlike our ROTC counterparts, we have to wear the uniform every day for the entire Academy experience. It is never solely Air Force dress-up Thursday, but rather a constant barrage of uniform wear. Up until Recognition Doolies are required to wear the uniform 24 hours a day. It becomes a privilege to take off the uniform, but in reality it should be a privilege to put the uniform on. A common training technique for Doolies are making them do Superman drills. This is when they have to change uniforms about five times in a row in a certain amount of time; which is an event they dread. We force them to funnel through all different types of uniforms and them grade them harshly.

USAFA also has no problem using uniforms as a punishment. Commanders will tack on constant uniform wear as part of probationary restrictions. If you have to serve confinements, you have to wear one of the most formal uniform combinations. By the time graduation comes around, most cadets view the uniform in a negative light and don't put in the extra effort to make it look nice.

02 May 2009


Punishment is a tricky thing to dish out here at the Air Force Academy. During my freshmen year the system was undefined and punishment mainly consisted of paperwork. With new leadership comes new ideas, and one of the recent ones is sitting "confinements". One confinement consists of coming into a biology room in service dress and being "productive" for one hour and fifty minutes. No music, video games, sleeping, standing, talking, tobacco, eating, or anything that could be deemed "fun". Two unfortunate cadets are tasked to monitor the scum of the earth and make sure no funny business goes down. I have sympathy for these cadets, similar to how I feel about intramural referees. Every once in a while the officer of the day will stop in and ream the monitors for allowing the dirtbags to wear headphones and eat, and the monitors will then be forced to care and tell everyone to lock it up.

So for your average discrepency (parking ticket, missing a briefing, showing up late to class, driving your roommate to the hospital in the middle of the night for an emergency, going to someone else's room to finish up a group project after Taps, being outside the gate after Top Off is revoked and not wanting to drive back drunk, etc.) punishment usually starts at 20 hours of confinements, and can go all the way up to 200 hours. In this leadership laboratory where logic is supposed to be king, for some reason the best thing we could come up with to teach cadets a lesson and turn them into officers of character is dressing them up and making them sit quietly. But does the institution limit this experience to only USAFA cadets? No! If you decide to visit us from another Academy we have no problem dishing you out some cold hard justice: Air Force style!

Even though it is taboo to talk about why you got sent to the slammer, I will risk my life by telling you I was late to formation. The punishment? Unknown so far . . . the incident happened five weeks ago but the paperwork has been so slow going through the system I am sitting confinements now so that when my punishment actually does come down it won't be as harsh. So as I sit here repaying my debt to society, I'm sad to report that I am not being filled with pure respect and awe for this institution, but rather a bitter taste in my mouth only a few days before graduation.

26 April 2009

Buzzword Bingo

In our leadership laboratory, we have the honor of listening to countless speakers who know infinitely more than we do. Once in a while we will hear something worthwhile, but the vast majority of speeches are filled with cliches and meaningless buzzwords. The Academy is so in love with these type of speeches they organize entire events (NCLS) and spent vast amounts of money to bring in speakers from all over the world. Once a week we even get an hour long buzzword overload session called Cadet Professional Military Education.

For the short amount of time cadets aren't sleeping during these briefings, they like to play a game called "Buzzword Bingo". The game is fun and easy to play; so for everyone watching at home grab a pen and let's get started! All you have to do is take a standard five by five bingo board and fill it in with your favorite buzzwords. Some of my favorites include "character", "virtue", "synergy", "dedication", "sacrifice" and don't forget the big three: "integrity", "service" and "excellence". Now listen to the speaker and mark the words off on your board when you hear them. If you get five in a row, jump up and yell "Bingo"! You win!

19 April 2009

Top Off

Privileges come slowly at USAFA. The theory is that if you take away everything from cadets and give things back to them over a long period of time, they will appreciate the little things more and be forever grateful. Even after four years at this institution, I have less privileges than I did six weeks out of enlisted basic training in the "real" Air Force. As I look back at some of the privileges I earned, I recall such things as being allowed to sit down in my own room, wearing my bathrobe with the Prop and Wings emblem showing and having a plant in my room. The final stage of the Academy privilege package is "Top Off".

This event happens at some point approximately a month before graduation and includes such wonders as not having to be in bed at 10:45 pm every night and optional breakfast. The only real reason that Top Off exists though is to not have Firsties completely check out before they graduate. The exact date of this event is arbitrary and that is also its genius. The upper leadership hints that Top Off will come quicker depending on the performance of the Cadet Wing. By doing this the "cadet-run" Wing continues to try and please permanent party and pass off responsibilities to the two digs while maintaining professionalism and punctuality. No matter how much success firsties have, vaguely defined "general discrepancies" prevent Top Off from happening until just a few days before graduation.

10 April 2009


IHTFP is an acronym with two meanings at USAFA. On the one hand, it means "I'm Here To Fly Planes". As half of the cadet wing graduates to become pilots, this is a very fitting saying. It serves as a constant reminder that after four long years the cadets who have worked hard will be given the chance to play hard in a multi-million dollar fighter jet. The Academy does a pretty good job pounding the fact that you are an officer first and a pilot second into cadets' skulls on a daily basis, but unofficially cadets who are destined to be pilots keep this little motto to serve as a pick-me-up in the back of their minds.

The second meaning is a bit more sinister. It stands for "I Hate This F%#&ing Place". It serves as a constant reminder that this institution has sucked away four long years of our lives. Cadets love to remind each other how horrible this place is and will frequently get in contests about who is more cynical (See "Hating Mitch's" post).

So the next time you see this unique acronym on a morale patch or carved into a bathroom stall you can now fully appreciate its meaning and will hopefully lean towards the first meaning.

04 April 2009

Hating Mitch's

Here at the United States Air Force Academy all cadets pay for three meals a day from the cadet dining facility: Mitchell Hall. At every mandatory meal the staff is able to serve 4,400 cadets in less than five minutes. Now it isn't always the best food in the world, but I think the food we get is pretty darn good for government work. I have my problems with the services Mitch's provides, but that is a rant for another day. As far as cadet activities go, hating Mitch's is definitely one of the most popular. It seems to me that whenever this subject comes up all cadets in the local area have to give their input on how horrible Mitch's is and how torturous it is to eat their food. We all have our favorite quotes from disgruntled cadets I'm sure; I overheard this gem while sitting down for dinner 3 dig year "the only thing Mitch's makes right is the water, and half the time they mess that up". The cadet who said this was 100% serious and all of his other buddies at the table totally agreed with him.

I'm always shocked to hear about cadets who leave immediately after "wing dismissed" and go back to their room to eat Ramen. Then there are cadets who get dinner delivered to the ECP every night because eating Mitch's would be unbearable. Their paycheck may quickly burn away, but at least their stomach will live to see another day. Even when Mitch's brings in outside food from KFC or Papa John's, the fact that Mitch's came in contact with it automatically transforms it into slop unworthy for the pig trough.

31 March 2009

Framing the Recognition Debate

The topic of Recognition is very controversial at the Air Force Academy for many reasons. The main debates are whether it is hazing vs. training, current restrictions on Recognition vs. how it used to be, how everyone gets Recognized (youth soccer attitude) vs. having some cadets pass and some fail, training in the squadron vs. at wing level, and the biggest of all which is whether it is even beneficial to have the event in the first place.

Basic Cadet Training does a fantastic job transforming immature unprepared civilians (and prior Airmen) into cadets ready to tackle the rigors of the Academy. Sure some slip through the cracks, but for the most part it instills discipline, integrity, and leadership into all who pass through it. For the enlisted force, OTS, and for the most part ROTC, this relatively short intense training period is enough to establish the core values of the military lifestyle. But for USAFA; it is only the beginning. We have to continue for an entire year in a restrictive environment because "it makes us better officers". Yes Recognition gives graduates of USAFA a tradition to hang on to, and is difficult to accomplish, but in the end does it really put us at a level far far above that of our peers which go through other commissioning sources?

I would argue we have to convince ourselves that it does, no matter what we actually think about the event. We have to buy into the fact that Recognition is a positive thing because it goes to the heart of why we have the Academy. Four years of suck is supposed to create superior officers than four weeks of suck. We say it gives us teamwork, togetherness, toughness, and heritage, but does it also transform us into the best officers in the Air Force?